The Ultimate Chili Recipe

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Prepping for game day or seeking warmth on a cool day? Give my chili recipe a whirl—it’s everything a classic beef chili should be and more.

Chili in bowl with beer and tortilla chips.

This chili recipe is my tried-and-true favorite—to me, it’s the very best version of a classic ground beef chili. Hearty and brimming with deep flavors, it delivers just the right spicy kick to chase away the chill. Whether paired with fluffy cornbread, spooned over cilantro lime rice, or served with crunchy tortilla chips for scooping, this chili never fails to please. It’s perfect for game days, casual get-togethers, or just a comforting meal on a cold day. Plus, it freezes beautifully, so consider making a double batch to stash some away for another day.

“We’re Texans and love your chili! It is so well flavored without being hot…Thank you for another great recipe!”

Mimi

Chili Recipe Ingredients

Chili ingredients including beef broth, molasses, and a lime.

  • Ground Beef: Provides the hearty meaty base for the chili. Opt for 85% lean; the fat enriches the meat, enhancing the dish’s overall flavor and texture. And don’t stress about the fat—post-cooking, it’s easy to skim off any excess.
  • Baking Soda: Helps tenderize the beef by locking in moisture, making it more succulent. Also accelerates browning, resulting in a more flavorful, tender chili.
  • Onion, Garlic, Red Bell Pepper: Forms the aromatic base of the chili.
  • Spices and Herbs (ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder, ground cumin, oregano, ground coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon): Gives the chili its distinctive flavor and heat.
  • Cornmeal: Acts as a thickening agent.
  • Beef Broth: Provides liquid and enhances the beefy flavor of the chili.
  • Crushed Tomatoes and Tomato Paste: Adds a rich tomato flavor and contributes to the chili’s thick texture.
  • Molasses: Offers a touch of sweetness to balance the heat and spices.
  • Lime Juice: Adds a hint of acidity and brightness to the chili’s flavor profile.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning.

Meanwhile, chop the veggies. I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the beef and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using).

Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant. Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using).

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.

Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

Chili in bowl with beer and tortilla chips.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add beans to this chili?

Yes, you can absolutely add beans to your chili if you like them. Common choices are kidney beans, pinto beans, or black beans. Simply rinse and drain canned beans before adding them to the chili during the last half hour of cooking. Beans not only add a hearty texture but also increase the fiber content of your chili, making it even more filling and nutritious.

How spicy is this chili?

This recipe has a medium spice level. You can easily adjust the spiciness of the chili to suit your preference. If you like it milder, reduce the amount of chipotle chili powder. To make it spicier, add cayenne pepper or add hot sauce to taste.

Can chili be made ahead of time?

Absolutely! Chili actually tastes better the next day as the flavors have had time to meld. You can make a big batch, store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and reheat it when you’re ready to enjoy.

Can chili be frozen?

Yes, chili freezes beautifully. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight.

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Video Tutorial

The Ultimate Chili Recipe

Prepping for game day or seeking warmth on a cool day? Give my chili recipe a whirl—it’s everything a classic beef chili should be and more.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, for a sweeter chili)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, such as Grandma's Original (optional, for a sweeter chili)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime

For Serving (optional)

  • Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and increase the heat to high; cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break the meat into ¼-inch pieces, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. (The beef will release a lot of liquid -- do not drain it; you'll skim the fat off at the end.)
  3. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the cornmeal, broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using); bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
  5. Skim any excess fat off the surface of the chili. (There will be quite a bit; don't worry about getting all of it, as it adds flavor.) Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. For a thinner chili, you can add a bit of water. To thicken the chili, continue simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 655
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Sodium: 1711 mg
  • Cholesterol: 134 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Just made ultimate moose chile.
    Your recipe was perfect !
    My Wife loved it, wish we were neighbours I would invite your family over for dinner.
    KGL

    • — Ken Lacroix on May 27, 2024
    • Reply
    • 😊 Glad it came out well!

      • — Jenn on May 28, 2024
      • Reply
    • I used ground chilli powder but is was extremely hot. What chilli powder do you use?

      • — Dave on June 28, 2024
      • Reply
      • Hi Dave, Sorry you found it to be too spicy! Did you by any chance use chipotle chili powder? If not, you may have purchased a brand that’s just on the spicier side. I’ve had good luck with McCormick chili powder.

        • — Jenn on July 1, 2024
        • Reply
  • I have made a LOT of chili and this was is a favorite! Loved the smokiness of the ancho chipotle and smoked paprika. Did not opt to add ingredients for the sweeter version and usually add masa in lieu of cornmeal or other thickeners. Delicious flavors! This will be my go to recipe going forward. Thank you!

    • — Teachurite on April 13, 2024
    • Reply
  • Any acceptable substitutes for cornmeal?

    • — Lisa Ferries on April 3, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Lisa, You can leave it out (the chili will just be a little thinner). If you happen to have corn tortillas, you can grind a few up in a food processor and use them. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 3, 2024
      • Reply
  • We absolutely love this chili recipe – it’s become a family fave!

    • — Lisa on March 31, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi there! Is there a way to modify this for a slow cooker?

    • — Carrie on March 16, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Carrie, You can make this in a slow cooker, but I’d still cook the veggies and meat on the stovetop first. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 18, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I’m making this chili for a family gathering on Sunday, and realize I don’t have baking soda. Is there another substitute? Many thanks!

    • — Lauren on March 14, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Lauren, there’s no real substitute for baking soda. You can make it without and it will still be good, but I think it’s worth grabbing some. 😊

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I subscribe to your site and have made many of your recipes before and have loved all of them. I have not made your Ultimate Chili yet and have a question for you. Due to time constraints the day I want to make it, I will not have 2 hours to simmer it. Is there a modification I can use to simmer for less time? Thank you!
    Nancy Jacob

    • — Nancy Jacob on February 26, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, how much time will you have to simmer it?

      • — Jenn on February 26, 2024
      • Reply
      • About 1 hour, maybe a bit longer. But then it is going into a tray with a sterno for two hours. Also concerned it may get dried out. Any assistance would be welcome!

        • — Nancy Jacob on February 29, 2024
        • Reply
        • Hi Nancy, I worry the chili won’t be tender or thick enough cooking for just over an hour. Can you make it ahead? It keeps and freezes beautifully. I wouldn’t worry too much about the tray/sterno because you can always stir in a little water if if looks like it’s drying out.

          • — Jenn on March 1, 2024
          • Reply
          • Okay, thanks so much for getting back to me. I know everyone here will love it!

            • — Nancy Jacob on March 2, 2024
  • Question. Can I use Mexican oregano in this recipe? For another recipe of yours that called for Mexican oregano, you said to not substitute regular oregano for Mexican, and I wondered if not making that change goes for this chili recipe.
    This is our second batch in two weeks, we loved this chili so much!

    • — nickalee jung on February 18, 2024
    • Reply
    • It should work well here. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 19, 2024
      • Reply
  • I entered this chili in a cook-off this weekend and won 1st place!

    May a few minor adjustments, replaced 1/2 lb. of the beef with ground spicy Italian sausage and added 2 cans of beans. Outstanding recipe just as written! Don’t leave the molasses and cinnamon out, they really add to the depth of flavor.

    This is my first time posting but I’ve used your site and recipe book for years. Your recipes are amazing! Thank you!

    • — Antoinette van’t Hoff on February 11, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hands down the best chili! My family loves this recipe. Flavorful, with the right amount of spice. If one follows the recipe & uses the spices/ingredients as listed, you can’t go wrong. Like others, I added a can of red kidney beans and a can of black beans. Another once upon a chef recipe favorite in our household.

    • — Denise on February 11, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi, I like two combine beef and dark meat turkey in my chili , do you think that would work in this recipe ? Or would the Turkey be overpowered by the spice level ?

    • — Orly on February 9, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Orly, that should work.

      • — Jenn on February 12, 2024
      • Reply
  • Absolutely great flavor profile! Used fire roasted crushed tomatoes because that is what I had on hand. I will double the recipe next time. Delicious!

    • — S Harvey on February 3, 2024
    • Reply

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